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Toll Group calls on PM to address trucking concerns

Byrne makes six key recommendations, including need for national heavy vehicle regulation and driver licensing


Toll Group is demanding a nationwide overhaul of trucking industry operations to improve road safety across Australia.

In a letter addressed to prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, Toll Group MD Michael Byrne recommends six key points that can help reduce road toll, including:

  • one rule book for heavy vehicles and drivers across all states and territories
  • introduction of a national operator licensing system
  • community education campaigns to help improve understanding of road behaviour around heavy vehicles
  • incentives / rewards for operators with sound safety records, and mandatory investment in modern, safer fleets
  • mandatory application of telematics for regulatory purposes
  • draw on private sector expertise in all discussions related to heavy vehicles and road safety

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has endorsed Byrne’s letter, stating that the recommendations offer a “clear pathway to delivering improved road safety”.

Byrne says Australia needs a national approach to heavy vehicle regulation and driver licensing in place of existing “multiple and overlapping rules” at local council, state and national levels.

He points to National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) inability to deliver a nationally-applicable rule book that could mandate one set of rules across all states and territories, including Western Australia and Northern Territory – two regions that have not yet signed up to Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

“Have one rule book for heavy vehicles and heavy vehicle drivers across the country. No variations, no exceptions,” Byrne states.

“This must cover a standard definition of a heavy vehicle as well as a national approach to: mandatory stationary rest times for heavy vehicle drivers, speed limits for heavy vehicles and a driver licensing system.”

ALC MD Michael Kilgariff concurs with the view.

“The Federal Government should immediately pursue discussions with the governments of Western Australia and the Northern Territory to encourage them to sign up to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL),” Kilgariff states.

“In a modern national economy, it is not feasible to have inconsistent rules in different states pertaining to the definition of a heavy vehicle, speed limits and regulation of driver’s working hours and mandatory rest times”.

Toll states a national driver licensing system can help attract new drivers to an industry staring at the face of a major driver shortage problem.

It can also “arrest the decline in competent drivers and provide a career path for driving professionals”, he says.

Toll recommends improving community understanding of how to drive safely around trucks, including through graduated licensing system and education campaigns.

Byrne insists that the “solution to the road toll cannot and will not come solely from industry”.

“The community, government, enforcement and road safety bodies must do their part too,” he says.

“There is an opportunity to ensure that drivers are educated on driving safely around trucks, such as safe stopping distances and over-taking, as part of licensing schemes.”

Making a case for modern vehicle technologies, Byrne notes “technologies such as autonomous emergency braking systems, lane departure warning systems and electronic stability control can save up to 104 lives per year but are taking too long to become standard in the fleet.”

He states that an operator licensing system can not only help stipulate a maximum vehicle age but also offer subsidies or other incentives to safe operators who deploy these “life-saving technologies” in their fleet.

Toll suggests that mandatory telematics on every freight vehicle can help identity operators and drivers who systematically and deliberately flout speed, mass or fatigue-related rules.

It is calling for compulsory application of GPS and black box technologies in all new heavy vehicles.

Agreeing with this suggestion, Kilgariff states that the federal government should support measures that encourage the capture and use of technology and data to improve industry safety outcomes.

Toll recommends improved industry engagement in any debate and policy development pertaining to road safety and heavy vehicles.

“Any discussion on heavy vehicle regulation must draw on private sector expertise to truly understand how we can overcome the obstacles that are holding us back from creating safer roads for our community,” Byrne notes.

The letter has been sent to all road and road safety ministers across Australia.

“Our industry stands ready to work with all governments to enhance heavy vehicle safety,” Kilgariff states.

“They should take the opportunity to harness that goodwill and work with transport operators in the interests of saving lives and enhancing safety for all road users.”

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